Atlanta: Jamie McMurray race report

Eleventh-Place Finish on McMurray's Mind in Atlanta ATLANTA, Georgia (March 21, 2005) -- With Georgia on his mind and a 13th-place qualifying effort under his belt, Jamie McMurray and the No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge team hung in the hunt...

Eleventh-Place Finish on McMurray's Mind in Atlanta

ATLANTA, Georgia (March 21, 2005) -- With Georgia on his mind and a 13th-place qualifying effort under his belt, Jamie McMurray and the No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge team hung in the hunt for a lengthy 325 laps and battled back from a lap down to secure their third top-15 four races into the 2005 season.

"We didn't have a very good car, but we kept adjusting on it, and the best we had it was at the end," McMurray said. "I'm not thrilled. We've still got to work on our stuff, but we turned a bad day into an average day. Elliott Sadler always races me really clean, and he was a lot better than I was at the end. You run so fast here. You race people the way they race you. It would have been nice to get into the top-10, but if the roles were reversed, Elliott would have done the same thing."

Merely a half lap into the 500-mile race, catastrophe struck on the backstretch when teammate Casey Mears lost the air off his spoiler to the No. 10 triggering a 10-car melee. After 12 minutes under the red flag, McMurray readied for the restart and skimmed the top-10 until a loose ride sent him plummeting through the field to 25th before the team's first green flag stop on lap 54.

With major air and wedge adjustments, four tires and fuel, McMurray returned to the track and followed teammate Sterling Marlin to the first of eight cautions of the day. Pitting with the lapped competitors for additional air and wedge adjustments, four tires and fuel, the No. 42 crew returned their driver trackside in 21st for the restart on lap 89.

"We were loose at first and made huge adjustments," he said. "We just got our car out of balance and never could get it back. Even though my car was fast, it was so hard to pass anyone. I was solely focused on getting back on the lead lap."

Almost midway through the race, his patience and driving prowess paid off. Working over pole sitter Ryan Newman and a handful of competitors, McMurray had maneuvered his way to 15th and back on the lead lap with the wave of the fourth yellow. One of several cars penalized for speeding on pit road, the No. 42 took the green on lap 168 in 14th, the last of the lead lap competitors.

Driving his way to as high as 10th over the following 100 passes at the 1.54-mile speedway, McMurray steadily maintained his position inside the top-15 while the Texaco/Havoline crew continued their work on finding the right balance for car and driver. Four pit stops and several tires and air and wedge adjustments later, McMurray drove high for an impressive, three-wide pass of the No. 19 and swapped places with the No. 38 until the checkered flag stopped short his top-10 pursuit.

"One of the hardest things today was not finding what we needed to keep a good balance in the car," he said. "It's hard to explain, but sometimes when I'd pull on the wheel, it was just numb and I didn't have anything. When I thought I was running a fast lap time, it ended up being slow. And when I thought I was running a slow lap time, it turned out it was actually fast. At times, I just didn't have a good feel for our Charger today."

Looking forward to shorter tracks and a long weekend off, McMurray hopes that Bristol will spell success for his team and another big boost in the point's race.

"We usually run better at the short tracks, so we've got two of those coming up, and I'm looking forward to it," McMurray said. "We jumped up to 10th in the standings today and that's cool. Now we've got to figure out a way to stay there and move up to the top-five."

The Ganassi contingent enjoyed a top-20 day all around as Marlin and Mears crossed the finish line in 16th and 19th respectively.

McMurray and the No. 42 Texaco/Havoline team will enjoy a short hiatus over the Easter holiday weekend before traveling to the bullpen of Bristol Motor Speedway on April 3. McMurray holds one top-five and two top-10's at the legendary track heading into the fifth event on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup schedule. McMurray jumped four spots in the point standings and is a mere 64 points outside the top-five.

-cgr-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Sterling Marlin , Ryan Newman , Casey Mears , Jamie McMurray , Elliott Sadler